Washington, DC is a fantastic city to visit. Especially because there are many hidden nature sights and interesting trails to visit in the surrounding area. Best hikes near DC are easy to find since DC is close to numerous fantastic parks and natural areas. Explore miles of hiking paths, many of which are even inside the city limits.
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1. One of the best hikes near DC is Theodore Roosevelt Island
Located on the Potomac River, Theodore Roosevelt Island is within the city of Washington, DC. It has a circular trail about 1.6 miles long that visitors of all abilities can enjoy. This little island offers a natural respite from the metropolis.
With boardwalks over marshes, lovely woodland paths, and a chance to leave Washington DC while staying inside its city limits, this moderate trip is one of the best places to go hiking in Washington DC with family.
Because it is located in the middle of the city, Theodore Roosevelt Island is easily accessible by public transportation. From the main parking area, a magnificent footbridge crosses the river to the island. When you get on the island, follow the course and enjoy this wonderful, scenic DC stroll.
Website: https://www.nps.gov/this/index.htm Address: Washington, DC Hours: 6 am to 10 pm Cost: free
2. Mount Vernon Trail
The Mount Vernon Trail, while not precisely a “wilderness” trail, merits a position on any list of locations to hike in DC. This 18-mile walking, hiking, and bicycling trail connects Mount Vernon to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It’s a great place for families, runners, cyclists, and history fans to go trekking near DC in a historic and gorgeous location.
The route is mostly paved, with some boardwalk parts. Because the path is small in many spots and is widely utilized, all recreationists must use caution when passing others and joining the trail from any of its numerous entry points. Some bridge crossings require cyclists to dismount.
You may get great views of the Washington, DC skyline from various areas of the route. The Mount Vernon Trail, which is accessible without a car, is ideal for a day excursion from DC to Mount Vernon or as a short adventure starting in the capital.
Website: https://www.nps.gov/gwmp/planyourvisit/mtvernontrail.htm Address: Washington, DC Hours: 24 hours a day Cost: free
3. A stroll in Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park is one of Washington DC’s largest natural parks, with various hiking routes linking natural and historic landmarks. It’s a one-of-a-kind location that’s similar to an open-air museum for people who enjoy both history and nature.
When you get in the park, you may choose from a number of paths and treks, some easy and others more difficult, for a relaxing day of exploring one of the city’s most tranquil green places. Choose the one that best suits your family, and bring some snacks and drinks to have a break along the way.
The Valley Trail at Rock Creek Park has stunning panoramas and wooded trails. The Rolling Meadow Footbridge, Miller Cabin, and The Pierce Mill Gristmill are also historic structures within the park. If you’re searching for more exciting activities, try rock climbing at Pulpit Rock.
This is an excellent educational tour because of all the Civil War sites and monuments inside the park. 150th Ohio National Guard Infantry Monument, Major General George B. McClellan Statue, and Fort DeRussy are just some of many historic sites where you can tell your kids about history and learn something yourself.
Website: https://www.nps.gov/rocr/index.htm Address: 5200 Glover Rd NW, Washington, DC 20008 Hours: Sunrise - Sunset Cost: free
4. Scott’s Run Nature Preserve
If you want to enjoy a calm waterfall hike without having to go a big distance, Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is a terrific spot to go. This stunning waterfall view is only a short and simple walk through the woods, and it’s one of the closest waterfall hikes to Washington, DC.
Scott’s Run Route is a 2.2-mile circular woodland trail featuring a stream crossing and several gentle rises. It’s a dog-friendly route, so bring your four-legged companions along for the ride. This family-friendly walk is one of Washington, DC’s most enjoyable and accessible hikes, suitable for kids of all ages.
Some trails drop precipitous bluffs, requiring tourists to choose their way down stony rocks with care. The park’s difficult topography adds to its allure. Rock crags and cliffs are blanketed in exquisite wildflowers and sit alongside quiet murmuring streams. Hikers are drawn to the hollows and ridgelines by this contrast, which allows them to witness firsthand one of Fairfax County’s most diversified natural environments.
Website: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/scotts-run Address: 7400 VA-193, McLean, VA 22102 Hours: 6 am to 8 pm Cost: free
5. National Arboretum
The National Arboretum is a lesser-known gem of a park within DC’s city limits that offers some of the city’s greatest hiking. The paths in this urban park are gorgeous and well-kept, making them excellent for hikers of all levels or simply those who want to go for a stroll.
You will learn about the different trees and plants that grow natively in the DC region by visiting one of the park’s many gardens and walkways. Throughout the year, a tourist center with additional information and events is also open.
While the park is most known for its historic Capitol columns, it also includes a number of hiking trails worth visiting. Starting with the Capitol columns and following the park’s trails to other portions and sections of the grounds will help you get away from the crowds.
The Asian Collections, which has lovely spreading trees and shaded chairs where you can sit and enjoy nature or try forest bathing, is one of the greatest locations to relax and unwind in the park.
Visitors can park in any of the three parking lots on the site, and there is some overflow parallel parking along the one-way circle. All parking lots, large and small, will have accessible parking.
Website: https://www.usna.usda.gov/ Address: 3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002 Hours: 8 am to 5 pm Cost: free
6. Maryland Heights Trail
The Maryland Heights Trail provides the greatest views of Harpers Ferry, National Historic Park, and key Civil War relics. The Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers merge here, as well as the borders of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.
The remnants of Union Civil War forts, trenches, gunpowder stores, and army encampments may be seen atop Maryland Heights’ main crest. The majority of the circuit has interpretive signs that describe the various sites.
Choose from the viewpoint or the complete hike, depending on how much time you have. If you’re short on time or want to spend the day exploring Harpers Ferry, a shorter hike leads to the park’s most beautiful vista. The rocky vantage point offers a bird’s eye view of the rivers’ confluence, as well as Harpers Ferry and its historic iron bridges.
Website: https://www.nps.gov/hafe/planyourvisit/maryland-heights-trail.htm Address: 489-551 Harpers Ferry Rd, Knoxville, MD 21758 Hours: from sunrise to sunset Cost: $10 individual pass, $20 vehicle pass
7. Dark Hollow Falls
Dark Hollow Falls is one of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah National Parks because it is both difficult and short, allowing you to combine it with another park day trip. This difficult ascent leads to one of the park’s most stunning waterfalls, a gigantic marvel composed of several smaller cascades.
Pets are not allowed on this trail. One of the Park’s most popular paths is the steep descent along a creek to this lovely waterfall. This route is short, but it is rough and steep. The climb back up is difficult. Know your boundaries and take it slow, especially if the route is muddy and slick. The trail is 1.4-mile long, and it takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
Begin your walk from the Skyline Drive parking lot. The parking lot can accommodate two dozen cars, but it fills up rapidly. Arrive early if possible. A huge trail kiosk marks the start of the Dark Hollow Falls Trail on the east side of the parking lot.
The track starts off paved, but as you get closer to the leafy woodland, it suddenly transforms into a steep, rocky path. All the way to the falls, you’ll be walking beside the water. You’ll descend wooden stairs just before reaching the principal falls viewpoint, then reach a walled portion of the route where you can see the higher falls.
Website: https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/dark-hollow-falls.htm Address: Virginia, USA Hours: always open Cost: individual pass $15, vehicle $30
8. Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain, a gorgeous summit trek near DC in Maryland, is a fantastic area to go hiking and one of the best hikes near DC. There are various pathways to select from inside the Sugarloaf Mountain hiking region, including the Blue, White, and Purple trails.
The majority of the routes are reasonably strenuous, with upward climbs providing excellent views of rural Maryland’s farms and rolling hills.
You can trek for as long or as little as you choose. This is strenuous hiking, with steps made of rocks in some sections and loose rocks in others. It’s well-marked, and there were plenty of trail maps at the start.
It’s a little tricky when you exit the main road and enter Mt. road. There are three parking spots, so you may start from any of them, and there is also occasional parking along the side of the road as you go up the mountain, so you can start from there as well.
Bring plenty of water, and if you’re not in great shape, hiking shoes and poles are a must. It’s a closed trail trek, which means there are only a few points where you can see down the mountain and over the valley from above the treeline.
Website: https://sugarloafmd.com/ Address: 7901 Comus Road, Dickerson, MD 20842 Hours: from 8 am until one hour before sunset Cost: free
9. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail
The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail is a famous hiking route that runs beside the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. It’s only a half-hour drive from downtown DC and perfect for a stroll through the woods, especially in the fall when the leaves turn a variety of beautiful colors. You’ll need to drive to the park, but it’s only a short drive from anywhere in the DC metro area.
Check out the historic chateau near the parking lot, as well as the vintage canal boat and the wooden locks that still line the canal. Also, don’t miss the Great Falls Overlook Boardwalk, which brings you to the Potomac River’s edge and gives you a spectacular view of the massive falls.
Hundreds of original features, including aqueducts, locks, lock houses, and other canal structures, remain as reminders of the canal’s importance as a transit route throughout the Canal Era, which spanned the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century.
The trail is mostly composed of crushed stone, but there are some parts with alternative surfaces, such as a dirt towpath. Every year, millions of tourists visit the Chesapeake & Ohio Trail, which is busiest from May through October. From spring through fall, weekends in Washington, D.C., and Great Falls Park in Maryland are particularly popular.
Website: https://www.nps.gov/choh/index.htm Address: Maryland, USA Hours: Sunrise - Sunset Cost: $5 individual pass, $30 vehicle pass
10. Whiteoak Canyon
The Whiteoak Canyon Walk is a 7.3-mile walk that is somewhat difficult yet breathtakingly beautiful, with plenty of streams and waterfalls. It’s one of the most spectacular waterfall treks in the Washington, DC area.
This path, which is located in Shenandoah National Park, is ideal for a day trip from Washington, DC, or as part of a long weekend excursion in the park. Since the beginning of Skyland Resort, this difficult climb to cascades and waterfalls has been popular. This trek begins at the lower falls and ends at the higher falls.
You’ll encounter a total of 8 waterfalls of varied sizes and ferocity along the Whiteoak Canyon Trail. If you’re looking for nice photo chances, go in the fall when the leaves turn a variety of brilliant and gorgeous warm colors.
Website: https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/upper-whiteoak-falls.htm Address: Virginia, USA Hours: always open Cost: individual pass $15, vehicle $30
Finding the best hikes near DC is not difficult, but you have to consider if the route is easy enough for your kids, where you will park, and how long it takes. Older kids can enjoy longer hikes, while the shorter ones are perfect for small kids.